ELSIE AND ANDREW MARSHALL
(from the Evening Gazette Friday August 9, 1957)
On Thursday the bodies of their three children, Sandra Marshall (10), Yvonne Marshall (9) and Moira Marshall (5) are found at their home in Spring-terrace , Langho.
On Saturday 10th August 1957 the bodies of Elsie (39), a nurse, and Andrew Marshall (46), a textile worker, lashed together, are taken from the sea near the Imperial Hotel and taken to the mortuary at Layton Cemetery.
Monday August 5th, 1957.
In the morning Elsie goes to her mother’s house to change a shilling for two sixpences for the gas. She is in good spirits.
Evidence that children still alive after their Mother Elsie goes to work, as a a nurse, in the evening.
Tuesday August 6
Elsie returns from work in the morning. She changes out of her uniform. She stays an hour and then she leaves with Andrew. Elsie sends a parcel to her brother in law in Edinburgh. It contains jewellery and personal effects. This parcel is posted in Blackburn and also contains a note enabling her brother in law to collect Elsie’s wages from Brockholes Hospital where she works part time as a nurse.
Wednesday August 7
Elsie and Andrew are seen catching an early bus to Blackburn from Langho. Elsie sends a letter from Fleetwood, postmarked 9 am, to her mother which is received on the next day.
Thursday 8 August, 1957
Elsie Marshall’s mother, who lives near the Spring-terrace home of Andrew and Elsie, receives a letter posted in Fleetwood posted on Wednesday. She contacts Mr Sam Tassell , her husband and the grandfather of the children, he finds the bodies of the three children in bed. Police search for the parents at Fleetwood and the Isle of Man. “Mona’s Isle,” the Isle of Man Ferry is met by Police when it docks in Fleetwood.
Friday 9 August
The death of the children is now being treated as murder. Police in the Isle of Man and Lancashire are given a description of Andrew and Elsie Marshall.
Mr Marshall is 5 foot 4 or 5, slim build, black hair, wavy in front:long face, with sallow complexion. He normally wears a fawn check summer suit or sports coat and grey flannels and no hat. He speaks with a Scots accent.
Mrs Marshall is 5 foot tall, very slim, short dark brown hair: pointed features with thin face and high cheekbones. She was wearing either a red gabardine riancoat or brown herringbone tweed coat with flat shoes. She does not wear cosmetics.
Saturday August 10
Two bodies were seen in the sea near the Imperial. The holidaymaker who saw the bodies whilst taking a pre-breakfast stroll telephoned the Police from the Imperial. The bodies were recovered. The holidaymaker who was a 60 year old sheet mill worker from Sheffield was an astonishingly good witness:
“They were tied together with a cord. It was as thick as a window sash. The cord was tied around their waists and there was ten inches to a foot of cord linking them together.
They were fully dressed. I should estimate that they had been in the water about 24 to 30 hours. The man was wearing a raincoat and the woman a mottle coloured coat.”
Chief Supt. C.M. Lindsay drives from Blackburn where he is leading the search for Elsie and Andrew. He viewed the bodies in the mortuary at Layton Cemetery. At noon Mrs Annie Bennett the sister of Elsie Marshall identified the bodies.
Thursday August 15, 1957
Blackpool Inquest of Andrew and Elsie Marshall
Verdict: manslaughter by suicide pact.
Friday August 16
Darwen inquest on:
Sandra 10, Yvonne 9, Moira 5
The verdict is that the children were murdered by their father, Andrew, but that their mother Elsie was involved.
The children were gassed. Andrew made a wigwam out of the bedclothes and the children were found inside it. A gas pipe had been broken in the bedroom and a tube led from it to the wigwam. It seems that Andrew had kept the children up late to make them tired and they were playing a game involving the wigwam. Elsie and Andrew fastened themselves together with washing line and jumped off the ferry to the Isle of Man running from Fleetwood.
The letter written by Elsie to her mother makes the reasons clear:
“Dear Mother and Dad.- This is going to be a great shock for you both and this is really the last thing we would have desired.
But in view of all the things that are happening in the world and the talk of new wars which well mean the extermination of masses of people and especially children, we decided that we couldn’t allow this to happen to our children.
Sandra, Yvonne and Moira are outside all this and no harm can reach them now as they lie peacefully together in bed.
Andrew and I did this because we love each other and the very idea that our children would be left, or have to face in future what other children faced in the last war.
I hope you will not condemn us for our actions but see it from our point of view and if you feel it in your heart you will understand why we have taken this action.
There is one thing that we can say truthfully and that is that the children certainly loved you and that our last wish is that our children should be cremated and that we hope that Andrew’s brother will attend to that.
Mother, Andrew is asking if you will put some of the flowers picked from your own garden with them.
This is goodbye and remember we love you, too.
Andrew and I are going together and will probably be picked up together and our desire is to be cremated together if possible with the children.
Please say cheerio to Annie for us.
There is no other motive or influence, and Andrew and I have been happy in our association.
Love to you both.
XXXX Elsie and Andrew. ”
THE COLD WAR
If you walk in the countryside you will be familiar with the archaeology of the cold war. High points are topped with radio masts. These are to facilitate microwave communication when the telephone wires melt.
We probably don’t know all the cold war infrastructure. Was there a complex at Fairhaven? The electricity substation is surprisingly elaborate. A bunker at Blackpool Town Hall to maintain a remnant of government? I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s and I kind of assumed that there was going to be a nuclear war down the line. I still think it is possible, increasingly so when there are many nuclear weapon states.
This gives rise to a different kind of fear. Of course you will die but something will carry on, but with nuclear fear maybe it won’t. Maybe we are walking through future ghost towns. The nearest you can picture is the abandoned city of Chernobyl. These created a mood: sardonic, pessimistic, , mistrustful. Planning for the long-term is… well there isn’t a long term.
The deaths sparked a searching of conscience in the Press. In a moderately nauseating article the Daily Mirror implied that the Marshall’s problem was that they hadn’t contacted the Daily Mirror’s agony aunt who offered a mix of diluted Christianity and cheerfulness that entitles her to a punching. I don’t think that her advice would have done it but I have been wrong more often than I have been right. And the Daily Mirror was brave to explore a new fear.
Contemplating the state of mind of the Marshalls, or their parents and relatives and friends , and the small community of Langho leaves me dumb. Andrew and Elsie believed in what they did.
I can find no reference to a funeral. Maybe it was private to avoid intrusion.